Men and women, young and old, in Cheung Kreav commune, Kampong Chhnang province, supplement their agricultural income to support their families while preserving their identity by weaving traditional handicrafts using the skills passed down from their ancestors.
Families reside in nine villages in Cheung Kreav commune of Rolea Bier district, weaving items such as bamboo baskets in the traditional way and displaying them for sale in front of their homes, others being transported by cart to be sold in other districts.
Srey Mom, 30, a bamboo farmer and weaver residing in Teuk Chenh village, said she knows how to weave a variety of bamboo items, such as baskets and sieves, big and small, and that she repaired the finishes herself.
“Since ancient times, most people in Cheung Kreav commune have been engaged in weaving bamboo handicrafts – never giving up as it is an age-old tradition as well as a side activity that can generate additional income.
“I learned to weave from the village elders – about 70% of them are bamboo weavers,” Srey Mom said.
Pang Sopheap, 48, president of the Cheung Kreav Bamboo Handicraft Association, told the Post that two main types of weaving are practiced in Cheung Kreav commune, which is made up of nine villages with about 100 families. .
“The first type of woven handicrafts are large and small bamboo baskets, bowls and sieves, in a traditional style. The second type is weaving bamboo handicrafts in modern styles, such as souvenirs and decorative objects.
“Traditional type products range from 1,000 riels to more than 100,000 riels, depending on the type and size, and this type is produced by many families. I know a village where nearly 100 families do this.
“The second type are more ornamental items, such as decorative bowls and lampshades, and many other items for display in resorts and restaurants, for example.
“These types of items can be sold for 3,000 riels to 60,000 riels. There are only about 20 families across the commune who weave this type,” Sopheap said.
Im Yoeun, a bamboo weaver from Tang Bampong village, Cheung Kreav township, explained that the woody bamboo stalks – called “culms” – used in making the handicrafts can cost between 10,000 and 15,000 riels. each.
“You can’t entirely survive with this type of bamboo weaving, but it can help supplement another income. Sometimes we can earn 500,000 or 600,000 riels from wholesale buyers who buy large quantities.
“On average, you can only make one basket a day, which is sold for 6,000 riels, which at this price only brings in 1,000 to 1,500 riels. Indeed, bamboo costs 10,000 to 15,000 riels the thatch, and you also have to buy the rattan used for the finishes.
Soeung Seang Yong from Tang Bampong Village said that with the help of her children and her husband doing the finishing touches, she can weave more than 200 bamboo sieves a month. Ten bamboo sieves can be sold wholesale for 70,000 riels.
“Weaving bamboo handicrafts is not very profitable. If the garment factory had not closed and I was still working there, I could earn more than 800,000 riels per month.
“Although I can earn nearly two million riels a month from handicraft weaving, the elimination of expenses for raw materials meant that working at the working factory was a better income,” Seang Yong said.
Sao Sarin, 48, from Toek Chenh village, says she weaves medium-sized bamboo sieves used to dry and steam fish or meat. While she can weave 10 bamboo sieves a day, she needs other people to do the finishing touches, and for a set that sells for 80,000 riels, they charge 15,000 riels.
With the small income she can earn from her handmade bamboo seives, she can help support her family, including buying food, clothes and household items, and allowing the children to d ‘go to school.
Despite an abundance of plastic products, bamboo woven handicrafts are still in high demand among Cambodians and still serve as functional items.
And residents of Cheung Kreav commune in Kampong Chhnang province are calling on all Cambodians to support their bamboo crafts to help preserve the traditional skills of Khmer ancestors to pass on to future generations.
“I do what I do because the skills have been passed down from our ancestors,” said Seang Yong from Tang Bampong Village.